In the beginning millennium, I succumbed to a crazy illusion about Super Smash Bros. Melee: I thought I was good. On weekends and weeknights, from the smug perch on my parents’ couch, I slammed the GameCube’s little yellow C stick back and forth and smashed my opponents. And as these opponents – two pals without a console and my 7 year old brother – cried and swore and were told it was time to go to bed, I thought, “I’m no good at big.” -something, but I’m the best at it, the pinnacle of my talents. ”It was happiness then.
When a few older kids got into a fight later me when installing in GAME, a UK equivalent of GameStop, I was chastised, but not demoralized – locked away wonders, I thought to myself. Then I walked into a modest size Smash bros tournament, led by a school boy. I was terribly confident until about a second into the first game, when my opponent’s Marth started whipping back and forth, spitting white smoke from his feet. It was a bit later, as my Jigglypuff was hovering in the air like a pink frisbee and I was pretending to know what “dashing wave”Meant — that I realized there wouldn’t be any legends written about me, that on the bell curve of player skills, I was stuck at the top. I was mean.
Video games have always favored competitive comparisons: they are, after all, games. But being totally ignorant of your abilities, like I was when I was a kid, could only have happened in an age when the internet was just background noise. Today, fed by rankings and YouTube clips, we know our sordid little island in Animal crossing, with its sad weeds and aimless paths, cannot compare to someone’s sprawling paradise of stately mansions and seaside orchestras. We know we’re not that good Dark souls player who undresses to his underwear before you adorn yourself. Your kill-to-death ratio is far from ideal, and you know it. In fact, everyone knows it. It’s never been clearer how average we are in games.
There is an element of nostalgia here that transcends games, which is that having access to masses of information about our hobbies makes those hobbies less of a mystery. Game folklore like finding the ice key in Banjo Kazooie or Mew in Pokemon Red used to spread by word of mouth or through a magazine; now you can find it on your phone.
There is a direct line between this shift and the competitive, consumerist spirit fueled by the internet (and, of course, the underlying consumer capitalism). Just as fast surfing the web can imbue us with a toxic mixture of envy and ambition – the outfits of people on Instagram, their accomplishments on Linkedin – some games plunge us into a ruthless semi-public performance. In his book Critical game and design in the age of gamificationPartick scholar Jagoda argues that many modern games are entirely “saved”. Examine Candy Crush Saga, he points out that all achievements are tracked and ranked: players are assigned a numerical score, a rating on a three-star system, and their performance is plotted on a leaderboard, linked to their Facebook. On social media, the player can earn extra lives by recruiting and interacting with other players. Gambling “corresponds to activities such as the use of social media and professional competition,” he explains, concluding: Candy Crush Saga “Encourages players to develop their own worth and compare that value to others online.” “